Central Catholic makes sure early vs. Roseburg
No. 6 Central Catholic left nothing for chance in its Class 6A second-round game Wednesday at Joe Etzel Field.
After needing 13 innings on Monday to put away Wilson, the Rams defeated No. 11 Roseburg, 6-0.
Against Wilson, the Rams had left the bases loaded twice and struck out 11 times.
Two days later, pitching and defense — what Central Catholic coach Brian Grant calls the backbone of his team — were there again versus the Indians, and this time the Rams offense ensured the end result.
The Rams racked up eight hits and used a four-run fourth inning to separate from Roseburg and get to Friday's Oregon School Activities Association quarterfinal.
Central Catholic is set for a 5 p.m. game at No. 3-ranked Mt. Hood Conference rival Clackamas, which eliminated Grant 8-0 on Wednesday.
"That first round of the playoffs can always do some funny things, even to the best of players," Grant said of Monday's victory. "There's a lot of variables on the table, especially the one-and-done factor. We just had to take a step back for a second, relax a bit, and remember what kind of team we are."
Another variable included 14 upperclassmen learning how to win in the postseason. Monday's triumph was Central Catholic's first in the playoffs since its run to the quarterfinals in 2015. The Rams were knocked out in the opening round as a low seed in 2016 and 2017.
"I was hoping after Monday that the biggest thing we could gain was getting our sea legs for the playoffs," Central Catholic senior Dillon McNeil said.
Despite the six extra innings on Monday, when Grant used his top two pitchers, the Rams didn't show up on Wednesday lacking anything.
Sophomore left-hander Dylan MacLean got the ball, which Grant said was "an easy (choice)" because
"he has shown repeatedly over the course of the year that he can handle any team's lineup, that he will go out and attack the zone, that he will trust his stuff and he's going to give us a chance to be in the game."
MacLean gave the coach what he wanted, retiring the Indians in order to open the game. He allowed just one hit through the first three innings and did so without showing his off-speed pitches.
MacLean said his goal was to get through Roseburg's lineup the first time without using his breaking ball. He instead moved his fastball around the strike zone to keep the Indians off-balance and chasing pitches high.
The Rams gave MacLean an early lead.
Roseburg senior right-hander Cody Johnson exposed his curveball early in counts and left his fastball around the middle of the plate. With two out in the bottom of the first, junior Patrick Muskat squared up a 3-2 fastball and drove it over the fence in left-center field to put Central Catholic up 1-0.
There was no sign of Muskat's five-strikeout performance at the plate on Monday.
"That kid has got a very professional approach to this game and will always give you his best effort," Grant said. "He's too darn good to keep down.You make a mistake to that stick, and that kid's gonna make you hurtin'."
The Rams continued to time Johnson's fastball and pushed their lead to 2-0 in the third inning. Junior Christian Cooney doubled off the fence to lead off. With one out, Muskat advanced Cooney to third on a groundout. Johnson then mishandled a ground ball between the mound and third base off McNeil's bat, allowing Cooney to score.
MacLean began to mix in his curveball and cutter in the top of the fourth. Roseburg put runners on first and second with a pair of two-out singles, but MacLean danced out of danger.
Roseburg left fielder Doran Gillespie drove a deep fly ball to center, but Cooney made a catch with his right shoulder against the fence to end the frame.
Central Catholic opened the floodgates in the bottom of the fourth. Johnson's pitch count was at 44, and he was almost exclusively using his fastball.
Junior Daniel Jeffries opened the inning with a double past third base. Pinch runner Clayton Reich advanced to third with one out on a bunt single by senior Ted Stephenson that was misplayed by Johnson and third baseman Zack Mandera. A run scored on
an groundout by senior Will Sprouse.
Grant said Jeffries, who twice led off an inning with a hit, sparks his offense.
"He's really come on over the second half of this season," Grant said. "Even early on, when he was in more of a pinch-hit role, he's always made contact. I haven't seen any level of pitching yet that's overwhelmed him at the plate."
After an intentional walk to Cooney, Stephenson scored from second when Mandera bobbled a ground ball hit by senior Rowan Ramsey that skirted to the edge of the outfield.
Muskat was then intentionally walked, and McNeil delivered a two-RBI single to put the Rams ahead 6-0.
"When anybody gets intentionally walked in front of me, I just feel disrespected," McNeil said. "On Monday, I left runners on in crucial spots, so I just wanted to get it done this time."
McNeil finished the game with three RBI's.
MacLean again stranded two runners in the fifth and sixth innings to keep Roseburg scoreless. He continued to change speeds with his breaking ball.
"When I needed a pitch to get an out in a clutch situation, I could just go to that," he said.
Roseburg sophomore right-hander Jace Stoffal fired hitless fifth and sixth innings and struck out three.
Grant trotted out MacLean to start the seventh inning. After a four-pitch walk to the Indians' No. 9 hitter, the coach inserted sophomore right-hander Jackson Elder.
The walk was MacLean's lone free pass. He scattered seven hits and struck out three batters on 81 pitches.
Using a power fastball, Elder sandwiched a groundout to third between a hit batter and walk to put runners on first and second. Facing the Indians' cleanup hitter, Elder induced a double play to second base on a low fastball to end the game.
Grant said he liked that his team, after the 3-2 victory over Wilson, did not shift from its style of baseball — using athleticism on defense, offensive speed and pitching depth to blow games open.
Roseburg finished 18-8, after being shut out for only the second time this season (South Medford beat the Indians, 10-0, on April 9).
Central Catholic improved to 24-5. The Rams split two regular-season games, both in the first week of April, with Clackamas (22-6). Central Catholic won 1-0 at Clackamas, then lost 9-6 at Walker Stadium.
Grant said who the Rams play won't change his team's approach.
"We're going to play this game one way, and we're going to play that way against anyone we come across," he said. "Rankings, seedings, that's just noise for other people to talk about. For us, we have to focus on what we're in control of.
"We've got all the tools in the world, we just have to play our brand of baseball."
• In another Wednesday second-round game, West Albany went to Jesuit and bounced the Crusaders from the playoffs, 2-0.
The other Friday matchups: West Linn at Westview, West Albany at West Salem, and the winner of Thursday's Sprague-South Medford game against South Salem.